Jack and the Beanstack
by Mark Isaak

Once, in a finite state far away, there lived a JOVIAL character named Jack. Jack and his relations were poor. Often their hash table was bare. One day Jack's parent said to him, "Our matrices are sparse. You must go to the market to exchange our RAM for some BASICs." She compiled a linked list of items to retrieve and passed it to him.

So Jack set Forth. But as he was walking along a Hamilton path, he met the traveling salesman.

"Whither dost thy flow chart take thou?" prompted the salesman in high-level language.

"I'm going to the market to exchange this RAM for some chips and Apples," commented Jack.

"I have a much better algorithm. You needn't join a queue there; I will swap your RAM for these magic kernels now."

Jack made the trade, then backtracked to his house. But when he told his busy-waiting parent of the deal, she became so angry she started thrashing.

"Don't you even have any artificial intelligence? All these kernels together hardly make up one byte," and she popped them out the window.

The next morning, when Jack scanned where the kernels had been cast, he saw a tall binary tree. Curious, Jack traversed the tree and eventually came to a large field above the clouds. It seemed like a user-friendly environment. Bugs looped through the air, a mouse ran past, a stream with CRAYfish flowed nearby, and in the background he saw a large structure.

Jack followed the stream in parallel until he reached a floating point he could jump; then he continued on to the address of the structure.

When he reached the gate of the structure, he realized how large its mainframe really was. "Wow!" he declared dynamically, "This sure wasn't built by a microassembler." Even if he had had a key, the deadlock was high above him. Fortunately, though, he could pass himself under the gate.

When he entered the room, he saw a huge supervisor sleeping on a table, generating a constant snore. This supervisor was so big that his bootstraps alone were greater than Jack. Without a word, Jack snuck past him to another door, which he passed under. He then began a sequential search along the network of passages for something interesting.

None of the first few cells he came to in this process had real-time applications. They contained only useless tokens or non-portable code, and cobwebs hung from the rasters. Finally, though, at the end of one branch, he came to a room packed with heaps of treasure. Its walls were decorated with icons and Logos; its floor had a Turing machine, peripherals, documentation, and a batch of software, all on an extensive data base. Jack's attention, however, was flagged by a bird.

"Unless I have a memory fault, this would be the legendary goose that outputs the silicon eggs," he stated. Without further procedure, he pushed the goose into a buffer in his jacket.

He quicksorted through the array of treasure, and soon came across an odd harp filed away under a spreadsheet. When he picked it up, its strings began moving synchronously, and it played a page of music. He spooled it away too.

He sorted through the remainder of the treasure, and then began to exit, but as he did so, the harp functioned again. "Help! I'm being thtolen!" it said with a LISP.

The fact that pausing there would likely be terminal registered to Jack immediately, but he remained static in fright. The harp generated another interrupt, waking the supervisor.

"Fe FIFO Fum! I smell the code of a Von Neumann!" the supervisor called.

"A hex on you, harp! Don't panic, Jack. Keep your parity about you."

"Halt, space invader!" commanded the supervisor. Jack ignored the instruction and started an escape sequence.

The supervisor followed him in a race condition. "I'll teach you to pirate my software! I'll execute you! I'll parse you into bits, and then I'll bit-slice those!" he called. "I need a high-speed bus!" said Jack. The halting problem was the last thing he was worried about.

"I'll fill your body with breakpoints and glitches!" the supervisor added graphically.

Jack got to the binary tree and hastened down in a recursive descent. In nanoseconds he was at the base. He went to his Fort, ran back with a pointer, and started hacking at the root. With a final backslash, he deallocated the root, and the entire system crashed. The supervisor, who was climbing down the tree, fell in an octal dump.

Thus Jack killed the supervisor, and by marketing the silicon eggs, he and his relations lived context-free for the rest of their days.


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